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Humphreys defends Scotland changes ahead of South Africa clash

Scotland's Ross Ford (left) in action during the Rugby World Cup match at the Kingsholm Stadium, Gloucester. Credit: David Davies/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Scotland assistant coach Jonathan Humphreys insists his team are not gambling with their World Cup hopes, after accusations they are putting out a second string line-up against South Africa.

The Dark Blues can all but clinch a quarter-final slot if they become the second Pool B team to beat the Springboks when they clash at Newcastle's St James' Park.

But Vern Cotter has again tinkered with his team ahead of facing Heyneke Meyer's men, making a raft of changes.

Kelso's Ross Ford is amongst those left out, along with Al Dickinson, Mark Bennett and Sean Maitland - all key performers for the Scots in their opening two victories over Japan and the United States.

Ross Ford training at St James' Park. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Cotter is also without injured duo Finn Russell and John Hardie and in all, seven members of the starting XV to face the two-time former winners are not regarded as the Kiwi's first picks.

But Humphreys says they're not sacrificing their chances against the Boks in order to stay fresh for their final - and potentially decisive - group game with Samoa.

I don't understand why people are saying it's a second string. What hasn't been written is that international rugby is a hugely, hugely physical sport.

I'd prefer them to write about a 31-man squad playing three huge games in 10 days.

We're confident in the group we've picked. Look at the two Gray brothers [Richie and Jonny]. We have a fantastic back row. Blair Cowan played every single game in the Six Nations and was extremely unlucky not to get in the initial 31-man squad.

We have Gordon Reid who played extremely well against France. There is Fraser Brown, who's arguably been our best forward in this tournament so far. He's been outstanding.

They're an extremely proud group of people. I haven't seen a more together group. We are all after the same thing - every single player has worked so hard to be here and they're here on merit.

Next week will be next week. Our sole focus is on this game, and we cannot take our focus off this game.

Right now we've not thought about Samoa. South Africa are an unbelievable threat to us and we want to get the job done."

– Scotland assistant coach Jonathan Humphreys

Scotland have struggled to deal with the driving maul and they now take on a side who have got the technique down to a fine art.

Centre Matt Scott says it's going to be a big challenge:

That's the game right there - the line-out and the mauls.

The forwards are going to have an extremely tough day.

As a backline we just have to help them out as much as we can. That means making our tackles and putting them back when we get the chance because we know it's going to be tough for them up front."

– Matt Scott, Scotland team

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